Eminem’s struggles with addiction are as well-known now as his triumphs in sobriety. But less well-documented is the story of how he first became so enamored of popping pills. Who better to tell that story than Eminem himself? He does just that in a new feature in XXL as he reflects on his humble career aspirations (he really just wanted to go gold and be Redman, basically), his massive success, and the effects his addictions had on both, as well as looking forward to the future.
“My addiction didn’t start in my early days when I was coming up,” he recalls. “We used to drink 40s on the porch and just battle rap each other. My drug usage started at the beginning of that first album. I didn’t take anything hard until I got famous. I was experimenting. I hadn’t found a drug of choice. Back then you went on tour and people were just giving you free drugs. I managed it for a little while. And then, it just became, ‘I like this shit too much and I don’t know how to stop.'”
He says he first realized he had a problem during his feud with Benzino and The Source magazine. During an interview on 106 & Park, he remembers, “One of the hosts was talking to me and I could not understand a word she was saying. 50 had to cover for me and answer every question.” The death of Em’s close friend Proof escalated his addiction, and he says at one point, he “had f*ckin’ 10 drug dealers at one time.” He blames the drugs for the lack of quality on Encore, as well as an album leak that forced him to record a slew of new songs for the album — songs he had to record as “I was getting more addicted to drugs, I was in more of a goofy mood.”
In terms of his current goal, it’s the same as it’s ever been: To be the best rapper, something we’ve seen in his efforts on projects like Kamikaze, Music To Be Murdered By, and Side B. To that end, he says he constantly checks in on projects from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, who he sees as the best contemporary rappers. He even admits, “If I had a choice between being the best rapper or making the best albums, I’d rather be the best rapper.” Which… yeah, I think we know.
You can read the full essay, written by Eminem himself, here.